The Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 on Monday said the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd), had approved the relaxation of restriction placed on churches and mosques starting from Tuesday (today).
The Chairman of the task force and Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr Boss Mustapha, who disclosed this at the PTF press briefing in Abuja, said the reopening of churches and mosques would be based on guidelines issued by the task force and protocols agreed on by states.
But the Coordinator of the PTF, Dr Sani Aliyu, gave detailed explanations of the recommendations approved by the President.
In its reaction, the Christian Association of Nigeria told The PUNCH that it was awaiting the details of the reopening of worship centres.
Mustapha said the ban on interstate movements, which the President, in his April 27 broadcast, imposed on the nation, remained. He stated that the second phase of eased lockdown would begin on Tuesday (today) and end on June 29.
Buhari had on April 27 imposed an 8pm to 6am curfew on the nation and introduced a total lockdown on Kano State, which recorded a surge in COVID-19 cases.
Mustapha said the PTF on Sunday submitted a report to the President based on its review of the eased lockdown. According to him, the second phase will be guided by “data and science.”
He said the PTF recommendations were, among others, based on the impacts of COVID-19 on the global economy and all national economies as well as pain the lockdown brought upon the poor.
He said the PTF took into consideration the advisory of the World Health Organisation on the need to follow a slow and phased approach that is data driven.
The chairman said, under the eased lockdown, Nigeria’s confirmed cases increased, adding that the majority of the confirmed cases were in 20 out of the 774 local government areas in the country.
Second phase of eased lockdown begins Tuesday ends June 29
Mustapha stated, “The PTF submitted its recommendations and the President has approved the following for implementation over the next four weeks spanning June 2 to June 29 subject to review: cautious advance into the second phase of the national response to COVID-19.”
FG rolls out guidelines for second phase of eased lockdown
According to him, during the second phase, there will be mobilisation of resources at state and local government levels to create public awareness on COVID -19.
He also said there would be “ban on gatherings of more than 20 people outside of a workplace (and) relaxation of restriction on places of worship based on guidelines issued by the PTF and protocols agreed by state governments.”
Other recommendations approved by the President, according to him, include “managed access to markets and locations of economic activity to limit the risk of transmission; ban on inter-state travels except for movement of agricultural produce, petroleum products, manufactured goods and essential services; mandatory use of non-medical face masks in public places and provision of hand washing facilities/sanitisers in all public places.”
There will also be extensive temperature checks in public places; maintenance of two metres between people in public places.
Mustapha said the President also approved easing the total lockdown of Kano State and introduction of phase one of the eased lockdown in the state.
We lack infrastructure to isolate all COVID-19 patients – PTF
Mustapha also said government did not have not enough infrastructure to isolate everyone that tested positive for COVID-19.
The SGF said, “We have been able to interrupt the level of transmission and we can now situate the level of transmission within 20 local government areas that account for the total figure of 60 per cent of 10, 107 that we have for today,” he said.
“What we need to do now is to apply a precision intervention process so that we can deal with the transmission at that level and those particular localities. Provide care for those that are infected and also put in place home management guidelines because very soon as the figure scales out, we would not be able to provide isolation for everybody that has tested positive.
“It’s not done anywhere. We lack the infrastructure, we lack the capacity to do that. It is not even advisable. What we have to do is to provide care at the home management level for those that are asymptomatic and can’t dangerously transmit the virus.”
Curfew now between 10pm and 4am
But the national coordinator of the PTF said the nationwide curfew would be between 10pm and 4am, with effect from Tuesday (today).
Aliyu said, “From tomorrow, Tuesday, 2nd of June, 2020, the easing of the lockdown will be characterised by the following: the nationwide curfew will remain in place but the timing of this will be reduced to 10pm – 4am. Vehicles that are on essential duty, including but not limited to those involved in the provision of health care services, media services and critical infrastructure, are exempted from the curfew.
“Open interstate travel by individuals remains prohibited except for essential travels and movement of goods and services. Just to make it clear: all restriction on the free movement of goods and services is now removed in this phase.
PTF tells banks to begin full operations
“There will be full opening of the financial sector, with banks now free to operate normal working hours, five days a week.
He, however, said state governments would supervise relaxation of worship centres
“Restricted opening of places of worship will be based on state governments’ protocols and with strict guidelines on physical distancing and other non-pharmaceutical interventions. Just to clarify: this will apply to regular church and mosque services only,” he said.
Aliyu also said the mandatory supervised isolation of persons arriving from outside the country would continue to be for 14 days until a new policy comes into place.
“Just to clarify again: there will be no further evacuation of Nigerians until the new policy that is currently being developed with the private sector comes into being. So, any prior arrangement for evacuation of Nigerians from outside the country is suspended until the new policy comes into place,” he stated.
COVID-19: FG bans street trading, hawking
The PTF national coordinator further said while markets would be opened and artisans could run their business, street hawking was prohibited.
He said, “In terms of general movements, persons may go out for work, go out to buy necessary foods and for exercise, provided they abide by the curfew hours. Movement between local government areas is strongly discouraged unless for critical reasons such as health care and work.
“I will like to emphasise that it is still safer to stay at home and avoid crowds. The pandemic is not over in this country and the relaxation of some of the rules does not mean that it is safer to go out. If you do not need to go out, please continue to stay at home.
“Hawking and street trading is also prohibited and we will be looking into this in greater detail with state authorities.”
“With interstate travels, movement across state boundaries remains restricted other than the free movement of goods and essential travels. Security services are requested to please cooperate with members of the public and ensure that goods are provided with free passage, as this particular phase is directed at ensuring the economy starts moving again.
“With intrastate travel, we will implement new travel processes for areas of the country with high-burden local government areas, and this will be restricted to essential travels.”
The task force coordinator listed the new guidelines for reopening of offices in the public and private sectors.
He said, “For the industry and labour sectors, in terms of working hours, normal working hours will apply to offices other than government offices, provided this is kept within (outside) the curfew hours of 10pm to 4am. Offices are to maintain working at 75 per cent capacity while maintaining the two-metre physical distancing.
“For government offices, they can open between the hours of 9am and 2pm. So, no changes in opening hours but can work from Monday to Friday. Prior to this, we allowed three working days. However, all persons within the Grade Levels of 14 and above at both the federal and state governments will be allowed to come to work.”
…Bars, clubs, gyms to remain closed
Aliyu also announced that while hotels could reopen, their restaurants must obey safety guidelines. He, however, said bars, recreation parks and communal sports remain barred.
He said, “Hotels may reopen but must observe all mandatory non-pharmaceutical interventions. Restaurants other than those in hotels must remain closed for eat-in but are allowed to prioritise and continue practising the take-away system.
“Bars, gyms, cinemas and night-clubs are closed until further evaluation. We will continue to support the agricultural sector to ensure food security for our citizens, and in this regard, farmers are requested to please go ahead with their normal activities provided they observe all mandatory health interventions.”
…Schools remain closed, final year students to prepare for exams
He added, “All schools to remain closed until further evaluation. The Federal Ministry of Education is instructed to work with schools to start the process of preparing students that require exiting exams, to allow them to take exams early in the next phase of the lifting of the lockdown. But for the moment, schools are to remain closed.
“I have already mentioned places of worship. Restricted opening will apply subject to the guidelines issued by the PTF as well as the protocols agreed by respective state governments, working with religious leaders.
“Recreational parks and communal sports to remain closed until further evaluation.
He said for funerals, the task force was limiting the crowd to 20 people including family, with physical distancing adhered to, as well as hand washing.
At the press conference, the Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, said the Federal Government was anticipating a second wave of COVID-19 infections after the relaxation of the lockdown.
FG sends technical team to Lagos over rising cases
Ehanire added that the Federal Ministry of Health had sent a technical team to Lagos State because of the “special situation” in the state which called for support and advice.
He said, “The mission of the Federal Ministry of Health led by the Executive Director of the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency has arrived in Lagos. It also includes the Department of Family Health and the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control. They are there to see how Lagos is doing and finding ways in which the Federal Government can offer support and also share experiences. Before now, we had spoken of similar missions to Kano State.
“The experience we have is that once we have lockdown relaxed in certain places, you have a second wave of infections. Here, we are aware of that and we are anticipating that if anything like that happens, we should be able to counter with measures. That is why we have emphasised non-pharmaceutical interventions that are driven by not only the government but by citizens – everyone.
“Those who are vulnerable should stay at home – you are safest in your homes. If you live in a home of many people, keep your masks on at home. With all these non-pharmaceutical measures, we do hope we can temper the second wave if there is one.”
On the threat by resident doctors to embark on strike, the health minister urged them to allow the Federal Government to resolve their demands, saying the decision to go on strike should be shelved.
Reopening: We await further details, says CAN
Meanwhile, the Special Assistant on Media and Communication to the CAN President, Adebayo Oladeji, said the association was awaiting further details.
He said, “We want to get the details before we will react fully. But in the interim, it is a welcome development. It is our prayer that God will surely deliver Nigeria from the pandemic in Jesus Name.
“If Christians and Muslims return to their worship places to pray for victory over COVID-19, God will surely answer us. The closure of the worship places is not acceptable to God. We thank God for opening the eyes of our government to the reality.
“The Church is ready for the reopening and willing to follow the NCDC guidelines and while waiting for them. We have already directed all churches to keep to the hygienic regulations whenever they meet and to pray for the victory over COVID-19. The new development is as a result of our meeting with the religious leaders.”